It’s a fact: bikepacking is just more fun when you share the experience with someone else. But there’s probably a good chance you’ve attempted – and failed – to convince a friend to go bikepacking with you. “Sounds fun, but I’m not sure I have the right gear,” they’ll say. Or maybe you’ll hear another another classic: “Both my tires are flat and I haven’t oiled my chain in months.” While it may seem you’re getting declines for no reason, it’s far more likely that your friend just has reservations he or she isn’t sharing. Lucky for you, we have some tips on how to get a friend out on their first bikepacking trip.
1) Slow Down: Don’t Overwhelm
When you’re amped up, it’s easy to be overwhelming. Think about it; you’ve been casually mentioning your meticulously-groomed bikepacking setup or raving about your favorite trails for months to your friend and decide to invite them on a trip. Now put yourself in their shoes – how would you feel in that situation? You might be worried that you don’t have the right camping experience, be under the assumption that it’s important to have the latest, most expensive gear, or that you might somehow ruin the trip for the other person.
Before you invite, take a deep breath. Then lead with something they know well to align the experiences: “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve taken some cool camping trips lately…” or “You’ve really been putting some miles on that bike!” By building their confidence in something they’re already comfortable with, you can help them take the next step.
2) Short & Sweet: Set Realistic Goals
A weekend trip might sound great to you since you’ve done this before. Or perhaps you love climbing on a loaded bike (you masochist) and want to get some elevation in your route. More than likely, your friend may not share the same excitement. It’s important to keep a first trip short, and keep the riding easy – even if that isn’t your perfect setup.
Think about times where you’ve described bikepacking trips you’ve been on to friends or coworkers and received astounded or confused looks in return – a trip you see as mundane might appear high-risk or insane to someone that’s never been bikepacking. As you get accustomed to an activity, you slowly normalize your thought processes and feelings about that activity. However, an outsider doesn’t take part in that process, so it’s important to recognize that disparity. Short trips also remove the “do or die” element from planning and packing, helping your friend to ease into it. The goal – a first bikepacking trip – should feel low-risk and easily attainable.
3) Make it Easy: Remove Gear from the Equation
Don’t let your friend get overwhelmed by the need for ultralight or specialized gear. Your goal is to convince someone to take one trip, not dive headfirst (and hundreds of dollars) into something they’ve never done before. Remember how you spent a few trips honing in your packing list and gear? Asking someone to make a big upfront investment is not only financially daunting but can also be a waste of money when they buy the wrong thing for their personal rig.
It may be hard to accept (given what you might spend on bikes and gear), but remember that any bike with knobby tires and a simple backpack will get you 90% of the way. The optimal setup is sometimes far beyond the required setup. “You don’t need anything special, we can work with what you have” is a great way to reinforce your ask. If they decide it’s for them after the first trip, then you’ve effectively set the hook, and your friend can make their own gear decisions.
4.) Be a friend: Share the Load
A likely scenario is that your friend wants to go but lacks the carrying capacity or fitness to get a loaded bike to the destination. Guess what? It’s your turn to suck it up, shift up and carry some of that extra weight yourself.
Look for items you can split. Offer to carry your friend’s tent poles, and give them the tent body. Be the gracious team member that carries the stove, or strap an extra water bottle to your rig and be the bikepacking camel. Remember that even though it’s harder for you, it will make it that much easier and enjoyable for your friend. Besides, you’re really just gaining fitness that will pay off on your next trail ride or solo trip!
5.) Share Your Favorite Experience
Trying to tell someone what makes bikepacking fun is far less effective than showing them what you’ll be doing. It does’t have to be complicated – show a few pictures from your last trip, tell a story about your time on the trail or send them a link to someone else’s description of the route you’ll be taking. Visualizing success, while corny-sounding, is an important part of getting someone on-board mentally, and the best way to do it is to be illustrative.
We hope these steps will help you convince your friend to go on their first bikepacking trip. But before you spam everyone you know with invites, take a minute to ask yourself: should you actually invite this person? Here are a few things to think through:
- Will they be adequately prepared? While being optimistic is good, bikepacking can also be a high-consequence activity if things go awry. With a two-person group, each member needs to be able to rely on each other, especially should an injury or gear failure occur.
- Do they actually enjoy riding and camping? There is a reason bikepacking isn’t as big as backpacking (yet). To really enjoy bikepacking, you need to, at minimum, be comfortable on a bike and enjoy sleeping in a tent. And that’s certainly not for everyone.
- Are you willing to stress-test the friendship? In times of “shared suffering”, whether it’s up a big hill or slogging through a rainstorm, attitudes can shift and put additional stress on a relationship. Think about whether this is something you’re willing to risk with your friend, especially if it’s a multi-day trip where interpersonal issues could compound the situation.
Have a good tip to get a friend out bikepacking, or maybe a trip where you regretted extending an invite? Drop a comment below and tell us about your experience!